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Copa America Centenario and Euro Cup to light up the tube during June
Copa America-Centenario 2016
The top teams from CONCACAF and CONMEBOL will celebrate the 100 years of futbol in the American continent when they play for the Copa America, the oldest futbol tournament in the world. Copa America Centenario will be hosted in the US this coming June, with the opening match between the hosts US Men National Team and Colombia on June 3rd. The CONMEBOL region will have 10 teams participating plus the 6 nations from CONCACAF in a 4 group stage with the final being played on June 26 in New Jersey’s Met Life Stadium. This will be the very first time the tournament is being organized outside of South America and most likely not the last time, depending on the success of it. The success should not only be measured by the result to be obtained by the national team in the field, but also by public attendance to the games. The US has a strong team and the tournament expected to be very popular due to its high Latino population in the major cities hosting the matches, also relatively close driving distance for Canadians who would want to catch a match.
Chile is back to defend their Copa America tittle but the teams from CONCACAF will be eager to claim the title, only Mexico has had a successful participation before reaching the finals in 1993 and 2001. The competition should be a great showcase of talent and great futbol as all the teams participating are in their top level of competition with very few key players missing the tournament, only one that has not been confirmed as of yet is Neymar for Brazil.
While on the other side of the Atlantic a week later, starting June 10, the EUFA Euro will celebrate its 15th installment in France. This year’s competition will be expanded to include 24 teams from the 16, format used since 1996. This should be a great tournament since the pool of teams is bigger and fans will have a chance to see players like Gareth Bale, Lewandowski, and David Alaba who rarely shine on the big stage with their countries due to classification opportunities in major tournaments. Then we have our usual fan favourites and statistically full talented squads like the World champions Germany, and defending Euro Champions Spain who will be challenged by an eager England ready to prove itself along with the host France and the never say Italians.
Toronto Raptors a factor in the NBA playoffs
The Toronto Raptors have made all kinds of history this season not to mention their success during the NBA Eastern finals despite their struggles and not receiving the credit they deserve from US sports media. Ending the regular season in 2nd place with 56-26 their struggles in the playoffs with the first two series against the Pacers and Heat both going to the final 7 game seemed frustrating at the start but things began to fall in place as the series progressed. They managed to refocus and change the game plan on a defensive and offensive side. It has truly been a team effort and having to count on all players starting and coming off the bench to contribute in the success.
Their key NBA all-stars DeRozan and Lowry had been struggling at the start of each series against the Pacers and Heat but somehow managed to pull it altogether and come up with some impressive performances when it counted the most and great support from Biyombo in defence and rebounds. Overall the team as a whole has been struggling with their shots from all field ranges, not being able to close their quarters when they had a significant lead to protect has also been an issue in their series.
The inevitable seemed to want to determine the outcome sports critics and analysts had been predicting all along, that the Raptors would be swept each and every series they contended. The Raptors have a lot of history to battle with in the playoffs appearances which have been 8 since the franchise was established in 1995. The 2015-2016 season has been for the record books, managed to defeat their opponents in the previous 2 series and are facing the heavy favourites Cavaliers in the Eastern Championship with the series tied at 2 (by the time this article was prepared), only two more games separate the raptors from reaching the NBA finals. The momentum is there and the fans know it, but it will take more than momentum to reach the finals and eliminate the Cavs in this series but you cannot count the Raptors out just yet, sit back and enjoy the game the underdogs have more basketball to play this season (very optimistic as I sit and write this article waiting for game 5 to start).
Blue Jays slow start
The Blue jays are having a slow start to their 2016 season, heading into New York for a 3 game series against the Yankees they currently rank 18th in runs scored with a batting average of .233 and sit 20-23. The bullpen is struggling and the hits are not coming from the big bats, It is usually acceptable by hard line baseball fans that statistics in April and May mean nothing at the end with approximately 130 games left in the regular season. It sure is something to consider that the very reason why the Jays did not advance past the Royals in the American League championship was in part because they could not close innings, left too many runners in scoring positions and their bullpen could not shut it down in late innings.
If it wasn’t already going bad enough for the Blue Jays in scoring and batting average to the start of their season they have had to deal with the aftermath of the famous bat flip. It seems many teams especially the Texas Rangers needed some form of payback or punishment for the unforgettable moment during the 5th game of the American East Series. The Rangers waited to retaliate on the last game of the series and regular match up in the season with the Jays to get Bautista; it came from Matt Bush on a 96mph fastball in the 8th inning and a punch to the face by Odor after sliding into 2nd base. With ejections and players being used as target shots the Blue Jays look to come out of their slump heading into the crucial mid-season, red hot summer lineup which should have any indication if they are ready to go back to the playoffs.